Tuesday, October 20, 2020
You are here: Home » News » Anglophone Struggle Leaders Tried In French! Bookmark This Page

Anglophone Struggle Leaders Tried In French! 

By Francis Tim Mbom

The Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon clearly states that Cameroon is a bi-jural and a bilingual country with two official languages being English and French. It further states that these two languages shall enjoy equal status in all its official businesses.

This presupposes that be it in court, National Assembly, Senate, the Ministries or otherwise.

This, however, was not the case when Barrister Felix Agbor Balla, Dr. Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibixy were docked at the Yaounde Military Tribunal on February 13.

The over 100 defence counsel for the accused raised a vehement objection when the trial of their English-speaking clients opened without a sworn translator.

This was a clear exhibition of one of the main worries that Anglophone Common Law lawyers tabled in their memo to the Government. By extension, this was testimony that Cameroon does not only need sworn translators within the courts in the two English-speaking Regions but that it is a necessity in courts all across Cameroon.

Thus, the defence counsel had no other option but to raise an objection when the Military Tribunal opened the trial by making a presentation of the charges being sought to be pressed against Agbor Balla, Dr. Neba and Bibixy in French.

The accused being English-speaking and by virtue of the Constitution and for justice to be seen to have been done in the on-going trial, the accused persons have to be granted their rights of being heard in the language which they best master.

The above was the basis of the defence counsel’s objection to the use of French, exclusively, thereby necessitating the hasty appointment of a translator whose attempts were simply approximate, to say the least.

It was at this point that the tribunal decided to adjourn the matter to March 23 during which time a translator with a proper mastery of the two languages would be sought.

This first stumbling block in the Agbor Balla trial suggests that the Yaounde courts will have to look for enough translators to be able to handle the cases of all those who have been arrested in the Northwest and Southwest and moved to Yaounde.

It is worthy to recall that in the trial of the former GM of SONARA, Charles Metouck, in April 2013, the Limbe Court was forced to look for a translator at some point of the trial because Metouck and one of his defence counsels could not express themselves in English which is the language of the courts in the Anglophone Region.

One Barrister Arrey Collins sometime in December 2016 told The Post that one of the issues worrying the Anglophone lawyers was the absence of sworn translators.

He said they have been facing a problem in the discharge of their duties in that sometimes when police or gendarmerie officers take preliminary statements from suspects in French and send them to court, the problem of sworn translators arise.